A common complaint of criticism of the first episode of Amazon’s juggernaut production, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, was that it suffered due to pacing issues and a bevy of exposition. But the show has definitely picked up the pace since that first episode and despite clocking in at around 70 minutes, episode 3, Adar, flies through its runtime while also keeping audiences engaged while building on the intrigue.
Most of the episode’s runtime is dedicated to the island nation of Númenor, where Galadriel and Halbrand meet up with the likes of Elendil, Isildur, Queen Regent Tar-Míriel and Ar-Pharazôn. All of these characters come from Tolkien’s own writings, so the world definitely feels rich with lore and importance. The Númenorean plot will become very important for the series in the seasons to come and the seeds for the conflict to come have already been planted, whether it was obvious or not. The island looks gorgeous and hyper-detailed while pulling inspiration from ancient Mediterranean cultures, especially Greek. The Island Nation is very untrusting of elves these days, despite the island being gifted to the Race of Men after fighting in the War of Wrath, but decent and untrust is brewing for reasons I’ll leave vague for now. This does put Galadriel at odds with her quasi-captors, who won’t let her leave the island at this point.
But she does find a potential ally in Elendil, the father of Isildur, who is an “elf-friend”. He still speaks the language and respects older customs. He brings Galadriel to the Western part of the island, where she learns that the brand found on her brother’s body is in fact a marking of The Southlands, which of course will become Mordor. Called it.
Speaking of Mordor and the Southlands, we also spent some time with Arondir this week, who is a captive digging tunnels for the orcs, who are under the command of an elf named Adar. It’s implied that Adar is Sauron, but I’m not taking that bet. The orcs, afraid of sunlight, use the elves and men to dig for them as they search for something, likely the sword Theo is in possession of. Arondir continues to be my favourite original character written for the show. He’s sympathetic and stoic but also a great warrior which makes him fun to root for. Also, just a note, but the violence in this week’s episode was definitely amped up, with a Warg (whose CGI was noticeably wonky despite the production budget) leaving a bloody mess in its wake. It wasn’t Game of Thrones gory, but definitely far more bloody and gruesome than anything in the Jackson trilogy. Parents should note this if watching with kids. Absent are Theo and Bronwyn (as well as Elrond and Durin), so I’m thinking each week a location will be left out of the narrative to allow a greater focus on the other plotlines.
We also got a bit of time with Galadriel’s companion, Halbrand, who is definitely giving off some untrustworthy vibes. I don’t think he’s Sauron, as that would mess up with the timeline a bit (unless they changed things with the timeline compression), but with the revelation that he has royal blood, the setup for him to be the Witch-King is definitely made possible.
The final arc comes from the Harfoot/Stranger line. While this had a lot of intrigue last week, I found the reintroduction of Nori’s plotline brought the breakneck pacing to a bit of a halt in favour of the festival and preparation for the migration. I lost all sense of urgency and intrigue this week with them, unfortunately, but I’m also more convinced that the Stranger is a Wizard. Which way the migration goes will definitely confirm one way or the other I think. That said, it was the weaker part of the episode and felt out of place with the more urgent and seemingly important plotlines elsewhere. There was also a sequence with Galadriel that featured a solid thirty seconds of slo-mo horseback riding and it was very out of place. I’m still not in love with the characters like I was with the Jackson films, but I’m invested in almost all the arcs in terms of where the story is and could be going. I’m not having an issue with the pace, as the runtime breezed past me, but I do hope we focus on some bigger-picture stuff soon and get a sense of what this first season is all about aside from setting up the world.
Overall, Adar was the best of the three so far and offered great momentum, lots of new characters to get invested in, a sense of intrigue and mystery, some action and more breathtaking scenery. The Harfoots did feel a little out of place, but it did seem to suggest that the Stranger is in fact an ally to the travelling caravan. Hopefully, next week’s episode keeps them out as they travel so we get an update on Durin and Elrond without giving up the Arondir and Númenor arcs.